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Design

The World Is A Playground: Katamari's Keita Takahashi Expands His Empire

The man behind Katamari Damacy speaks mostly Japanese, but agreed to answer our questions anyhow.

by Alexis Guillaume
22 August 2011, 4:55pm

Keita Takahashi is a Japanese game designer, and even if you’ve never heard his name before, chances are you’re familiar with his work. He’s the guy behind two of Namco’s most successful game franchises, Katamari Damacy and Nobi Nobi Boy. KD is a game with a unique visual identity in part informed by Takahashi’s artistic background as a sculptor. Gamers are transported to an imaginary world where the King of All Cosmos has destroyed most of the Earth in a fit of rage. The main character rolls a magical adhesive ball around the world to make it clean and orderly once again.

Recently, Takahashi has gone beyond video game design to devote time to more adventurous projects focused on innovation and originality. He worked on designing a children’s playground in Nottingham, United Kingdom, but sadly, the project never saw the light of day due to funding issues.

Takahashi is also the creator of the world’s first Transformers/Gundam coffee table

Now, Takahashi is involved in Stuart Butterfield’s (a Flickr founder) Glitch project, a massively multiplayer role playing game in which players have to collect resources to create products they exchange with others. Players can join up story-driven quests, the plot-lines of which we know little about since the game is still in the private beta stage.

We spoke with Takahashi via email, in Japanese. The following interview is the result of passionate and arduous translation work. We invite you to check out his blog, where he showcases a lot of his work. He also writes a journal about his experience in the land of moose and maple syrup, using the rather odd sobriquet Mr. Smoked Salmon.

The Creators Project: What is your creative process? How do you find your inspiration?
Keita Takahashi:
I always think of how I can help a great number of people. Things I do for myself are quite trivial, that's why I believe everything I create aims to make people smile and to make life a little more fun. This is my main motivation.

Throughout your career, which project do you hold dearest?
My current projects are always my favorites. My two recent projects, the video game Glitch and my web service concept Souponuts draw most of my time and my entertainment.

How did you enter game design? When did you begin?
When I was an art student, I studied mainly sculpture. I joined Namco in 1999 as a Visual Designer. And then I thought to myself that I wanted to create a game, so I thought about my own original concept. It became Katamari, on which I started working in 2001. Thing is, when I was a boy, I wanted to become an airline pilot.

Our man holding a plush toy version of Katamari’s main character, the King of All Cosmos

You're currently involved in Glitch. What is the concept?
I don't have an in-depth knowledge of Glitch's concept but I can tell you a few things. The game is about creating various objects from elements that are gathered throughout the game world. You can harvest butterflies, milk or wheat, assemble them and begin greater quests. It's basically a game centered on daily activities, such as making bread or producing various resources. Glitch aims at placing the player in this perspective. And a lot of work has been done with regards to the game's visual aspect.

I've always wanted to work abroad, and I'm real lucky to be working on Glitch. Although I'm facing a great language barrier, it's a really interesting experience. My vocabulary is rather limited so I sometimes feel like a six year-old. My main aim is always to create both amusing and unique video games.

Are you working on other projects?
Souponuts is a web services project that I've started fairly recently. However, it isn't evolving as fast as I'd like it to, but I believe it just needs a little more time.

You've worked on designing a playground in the UK. Tell us more about that project and how it came about.
This idea I came up with gave me a lot of enthusiasm. However, because of budgeting issues, the project is pretty much at a standstill. The UK's economic climate isn't very favorable, and the guy in charge of all this at Nottingham City Council has projects of greater importance; which is why all this is pretty slowed down at this time.

In the near future, what type of project would you like to work on? Do you hope to continue working abroad?
SOUPONUTS is a project with true potential, so I think I'll focus more of my energy on it. Also, my playground project has fared well, therefore I'd like to design another—that would be quite a challenge. But what I'd really like would be to contribute to a school or a town's visual aspect. Ever since I've moved to Vancouver, I've been thinking I could live anywhere. And thanks to the internet, I can communicate from anywhere. Spending my time between the real world and the virtual world is my way of life.

Glitch Trailer

Noby Noby BOY Artwork